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The best books for children from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s

Ages 3 and under | Ages 3 to 7 | Ages 7 to 10 | Ages 10 and up | More expert picks



By Roald Dahl (Viking, 1988)
In this Books of Wonder favorite, sweet-tempered, preternaturally gifted Matilda uses her quick wit and a little mind-over-matter to free herself from her boorishly cruel parents and from Miss Crunchbull, the kid-hating mistress of her school.

The Golden Compass 
By Philip Pullman (Knopf, 1996)
Grown-ups can (and will) argue the theological implications behind what Glassman calls "the most original, creative fantasy since Tolkien." Young readers, meantime, will lose themselves in a compulsively fascinating universe of daring, flawed heroes, animal familiars and steampunk gadgetry.

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone 
By J.K. Rowling (Scholastic, 1998)
What's left to say about the book that launched a cultural phenomenon? As Marcus puts it, "By now, it's as much a part of child culture as Mother Goose."

By Louis Sachar (FSG, 1998)
Beleaguered Stanley Yelnats is doing time at a juvi work camp. This is more than a tale of loyalty and redemption (though it's that, too). Epic in scope, intimate in emotion and rich in deadpan humor, the novel manages to make even the most outlandish twists and coincidences utterly believable.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 
By Jeff Kinney (Abrams, 2007)
Middle-schooler Greg Heffley—self-centered, mean-spirited and downright lazy—writes longhand journal entries interspersed with hilarious cartoons. The book's been made an instant classic, Scieszka says, "not by critics, but—most important—by readers who love it."



Incredulous because we overlooked your faves? Don't get mad; set us straight! Email kids@timeoutny.com with your new classic picks. 

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